Sir Norman wowed a spellbound crowd
Unlike most of the contenders for the first Legend of Comedy award, it is fair to say Sir Norman Wisdom had reached household name status long before his first performance at the festival.
In a rare appearance, an 87-year-old Sir Norman – a patron of Leicester Comedy Festival – played to a packed De Montfort Hall in 2002.
He is one of 20 funny people in the running for our Legend of Comedy award – launched to celebrate 20 years of the festival.
Sir Norman hosted an old-fashioned variety show featuring singers, dancers and magicians – which impressed reviewer Sue Bassett.
"At the age of 87, most men would be only too happy to settle down with their pipe and slippers to watch the latest crop of comedians on TV – but not comedy legend Sir Norman Wisdom," she wrote.
"Without his flat cap and too-tight suit, without even saying a word, Sir Norman started the show to rapturous applause with merely his trademark silly walk on to the stage.
"We were entertained to two hours of variety entertainment including comedians, singers and a comic magician.
"But the star of the show had to be Sir Norman who captivated everyone with a mixture of stand-up comedy, singing and slapstick."
Sir Norman performed three songs which left the audience "spellbound".
Our reviewer said: "He showed that, although famous for his film roles, he makes a fine stand-up comedian.
"Once his wonderful but far-too-brief performance came to an end, the audience simply wouldn't let him go and he returned to the stage several times to shake hands with fans of all ages."
Sir Norman died in October 2010, but Mercury readers have not forgotten about him and his family humour, with postal votes for the comedian arriving in our office every day since we launched the competition.
A couple of months before the gig, in December 2001, the Mercury asked Sir Norman why people still loved his comedy after all these years.
He said: "You see, there was no sex, no bad language, no car crashes or crime – eat your heart out, Guy Ritchie."